This weekend the weather has been nice and sunny, although at 12 degrees C, still a bit chilly for ditching the fleece jacket. We decided to visit Ayr again, but would head southwards towards Dunure in search of birds.
On leaving the train station, we saw a bus going to Craig Tara holiday park, so jumped on it as it would take us to the Heads of Ayr. This is located between the Heads of Ayr cliffs and the rocky outcrops at Greenan Castle, to the south-west of Ayr’s main beach. It has a sandy beach and it is possible to walk the 4 miles to Ayr from there.
The holiday park looked quite impressive and we decided to look into booking some accommodation there later in the year. It looked a good base for bird-watching, cycling and walking. It was originally opened in 1946 as a Butlins holiday camp but is now run by Haven.
During the Second World War the Admiralty asked Billy Butlin to construct two new camps, one in Scotland. Butlin found 85 acres on the coast neighbouring the Heads of Ayr. HMS Scotia was a training establishment for the Royal Navy and was used until the end of the war.
In 1946 Butlin took back ownership of the camp from the Admiralty and Butlins Ayr was opened to the public.
The Beach at Craig Tara
We walked to the perimeter of the holiday park and found a gate leading to the beach. The name ‘Craig Tara’ comes from the rocky outcrop on the beach beside the holiday park.
The tide was out so we managed to see some bird life near the water’s edge. There were a large group of Green sandpiper, some Gulls and Oystercatchers feeding in the water. Some Swans were further out, swimming around.
In the distance, the Isle of Arran could be seen, although obscured by a slight mist. We walked towards the water’s edge, keeping our distance to avoid disturbing the birds. The beach at Craig Tara is a designated safe bathing beach and was lovely and clean.
There were a few people on the beach, as it was a nice sunny day. This part of the coast also makes an enjoyable walk.
As we walked along, was saw a few Curlew, Cormorants and male and female Gooseander. The Oystercatchers were present all along this part of the coast and were particularly noisy.
In the distance we could see a small tower house perched on a rocky outcrop. This is Greenan Castle, a 16th century tower house. It is closed to the public, but is still quite well maintained considering how old it is.
We decided to climb up the small hill to the castle to take a closer look. As we were climbing up the hill we met some people on their way down. One of them started to speak to me and it turned out he used to live near me!
History of Greenan Castle
On closer look, the Castle is quite small, but it is in the perfect location for keeping watch for an invasion from the sea! The entrance lintel has the inscription, JK 1603 FMD, which are the initials of John Kennedy of Baltersan and his third wife, Florence MacDowell, who owned the lands around Greenan at that time.
Beside the tower are traces of a walled courtyard and outbuildings. On 12 May 1602, Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean and his servant, Lancelot Kennedy, started on a journey to Edinburgh on horseback. A few miles away into the journey at St Leonards woods they were ambushed and Sir Thomas was murdered.
Battle of Brockloch
This was in retaliation for the death of the young Laird of Bargany in December, 1601 at the Battle of Brockloch, near Maybole. Years later, the Muirs of Auchindrain (father and son) were executed for their part in the murder.
The play by Sir Walter Scott, An Ayrshire Tragedy, was inspired by this story.
We walk round the castle before returning to the beach and continuing on the walk along the beach. In the distance the town of Ayr can be seen.
The birdlife at his part of the walk was mainly seagulls but in the distance we could see a large group of swans, Oystercatchers and Gulls sitting on a sandy ‘island’ surrounded by water. They were safe there, as a pair of waders would probably be required to be worn to reach this ‘island’ to keep dry.
At Doonfoot, we had to walk away from the beach to cross a small footbridge over the River Doon. We then followed the walkway along the seafront for 200 yards, before finding a path back onto the beach.
The birdlife here consisted only of Gulls so we enjoyed the rest of the walk in the sunshine watching the activity around us. The beach was much busier than last week and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
On thing noticable about Ayr is how clean the area is. There is very little litter in the streets and beach and the buildings are all nice and clean, probably helped by the lack of heavy engineering in the area in the last century.
The route we had walked today is part of the 100 mile Ayrshire Coastal Path from Glen App, near Stranraer to Largs, a walk we will be looking forward to in the future.
It had been a good day and we did learn about Greenan Castle, which was something new to us.
Craig Tara (Heads of Ayr): A719 Ayr to Girvan road.
Public Transport: Stagecoach 97 & 98 outside railway station and bus station.